Where the Fire Boss is needed most, there are no runways. So how does this highly-modified crop duster, capable of delivering 800 gallons of water to remote wildfires, secure its H20 cargo?
Here’s the scoop: The Fire Boss, a revamped Air Tractor AT-802, stores its water load in about 15 seconds by skimming the surface of lakes and rivers. The extra weight – all 6,640 pounds – is delivered via aftermarket amphibious floats fitted along with other frame modifications, including a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F turboprop engine which produces 1600-shp.
Introduced in 1993, the airtanker has been embraced by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, firefighting agencies in Australia and elsewhere across the world because the planes get up fast and refill on the fly. They can deliver up to 14,000 gallons per hour for attacking wildfires.
Economics play a role, too. According to estimates, the Fire Boss costs $4,500 per day with an operational cost of $4,500. A comparable piece of fire apparatus, such as the Kaman K-MAX helicopter, costs between $14,000 to $15,000 per day.
Designed and built by Minnesota-based Wipaire, two amphibious floats slated for a Fire Boss were recently purchased by Australian-based R&M Aircraft Pty Ltd.